The aim of this study was to develop a framework that makes explicit some of the core
norms and indicators of hydrosolidarity and to assess whether regional and basin-level
multilateral water regimes in SADC are able to promote and apply the identified norms and
indicators. This is a relevant aim given that water availability and provision is a challenge in
this water scarce region. This is further complicated by the reality that transboundary water
contains 68 percent of the area of the SADC region; it provides for 74 percent of the region’s
people and constitutes 91 percent of the available surface water resources in the region. In a
region where fresh water is both fundamentally scarce and shared, it becomes critical to best
govern water so as to respond to the needs of water-related ecosystems which transcend
political boundaries as well as the complex spectrum of social actors and forces that place
demands on the resource. Hydrosolidarity is a concept that aims to respond to this
challenge. The concept has not, however, been distilled into a framework for analysing the
effectiveness of transboundary water governance. Also, International Relations (IR) has
extensive scholarship on the closely related ideas of cooperation, regimes and international
organisations. This literature has not, however, been systematically linked to a framework for
analysing whether water regimes can deliver on the indicators of hydrosolidarity.
This context gives rise to a core research question which focused on the extent to which
SADC Water Sector (WS) (a regional water regime) and the Orange-Senqu River Basin
Commission (ORASECOM) (a basin level water regime) can foster hydrosolidarity in
Southern Africa. The assumption and thesis statement is that water regimes in SADC offer a
partial promotion of hydrosolidarity by developing cooperative institutional structures that
allow for the development of norms and standards of behaviour, but are not able to create
enhanced integration and linkages beyond the water sector or to deal with issues relating to
holistic stakeholder participation. This research question is unpacked through four subquestions.
The first question considers the extent to which hydrosolidarity contributes to an
understanding of an ideal for transboundary water governance. The second analyses
whether water regimes can foster hydrosolidarity. The third considers if regional and basinlevel
water regimes exist in SADC, and if so, how they manifest. The last considers whether
SADC WS and ORASECOM do actually foster hydrosolidarity in practise.
The task of developing a theoretical framework for analysing hydrosolidarity in a
transboundary context results in a set of norms and indicators being clarified. The norms of
hydrosolidarity include cooperation and solidarity, equity, inclusivity, promotion of human
well-being and environmental sustainability around transboundary waters. Linked to these
norms are a set of indicators that can be used to identify and work towards hydrosolidarity.
These include striving for shared knowledge about transboundary rivers, enhanced
integration and linkages between relevant actors, issue areas and governance structures,
organisational structures for fostering transboundary water governance, stakeholder
involvement in transboundary water governance processes, and development of a normative
framework for transboundary water governance. These norms and indicators are also
systematically linked to the characteristics and functions of multilateral water regimes.
When applying this framework to the two case study areas, it emerges that SADC WS and
ORASECOM can only partially foster and promote the norms and indicators of
hydrosolidarity in SADC. Whilst all the norms and indicators are present in the agreements
and practices of the regimes, there are certain limitations to the extent to which the norms
and indicators can be entrenched. There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, the regimes
are confronted with various capacity constraints. Secondly, the regimes have a limited
advisory and technical mandate, meaning that they cannot enforce their recommendations or
actually implement anything in the domestic jurisdiction of member states without express
permission. Thirdly, the regime structure itself is limited by its theoretical assumptions which
emphasise the authority of states, the importance of state sovereignty and the importance of
a Western-centric, positivist type of scientific knowledge as being the most authoritative
statements of truth with which to guide policy. In order to fully achieve hydrosolidarity, a more complex set of actors needs to work in
collaboration with these water regimes. These other actors include national governments,
pre-existing bilateral arrangements in the basin, non-state actors and civil society.
The theoretical contribution of this dissertation from a water perspective is a clarification of
the norms and indicators of hydrosolidarity. From an IR perspective, it illustrates how
important a multi-theoretical lens is when analysing complex problems, as it helps to
elucidate the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of individual theoretical stances. The
practical contribution of this dissertation is to provide a clearer understanding of the capacity
of water regimes to deliver on the outlined norms and indicators of hydrosolidarity.
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